No, not a new online music project; like almost every other non-acronym piece of digitalspeak, a browser did use to be something else and you can definitely still find them in bookshops, musingly considering the shelves with that tilt of the head from when you have to read a lot of text sideways.
Which (without the tilt of the head) was also where you could find myself and Wulf Forrester-Barker on Saturday afternoon. Blackwell’s, the Oxford original of what is now presumably the UK’s only academic bookshop chain, were reacting to Black Friday with ‘Civilised Saturday’ – less showroom floor brawls over cut-price TVs, instead poetry readings, free mince pies (they had to get more a few times, apparently 120 was nowhere near enough … ) and cultivated background music.
I had been hired for this at less than 48 hours’ notice after negotiations with a couple of string quartets fell through. I wasn’t quite able to pull together a classical chamber group at that notice, or not in Oxford for a maximum budget of £200 anyway.
What I was sure I could do was get someone to play guitar / very sophisticated bass / keys if needs be and jam jazz standards from lead sheets with me; I considered trying for a trio but had to bear in mind I would be travelling back from London for the gig and wasn’t going to pay the others less than I paid myself, which is an interesting set of mathematical constraints. Luckily the flukes of diaries were in my favour and I was able to get my first choice, Wulf and his protean six-string electric bass playing.
Which, spiced with a couple of light classical unaccompanied violin solos, seemed to go down very well. The second location (languages and literature, next to the coffee shop after a while down in the cavern of all things academic), were a little disenchanted with Cry Me a River – so we upped the groove and got a very good response to Joe Zawinul’s Mercy Mercy Mercy, which I would barely have believed we could get away with in that instrumentation, and the classic Freddie Freeloader off Kind of Blue (double-stop sixths are an underused possibility in jazz violin).
Speaking of underused, off the beaten track specialisations for the unofficial full-length version of my CV:
- bookshop music
- next day delivery of live performance